Botswana revenue authorities on Monday announced sterner penalties for individuals caught smuggling fruits and vegetables into the landlocked southern African country.
Addressing the media on Monday, Botswana Unified Revenue Service Commissioner General Jeanette Makgolo said they are concerned about the smuggling of vegetables and fruits since the import ban in January.
She said to tackle this, first-time offenders smuggling products valued at less than 2,500 pula (about 205 U.S. dollars) will be slapped with 50,000 pula as a penalty. For products smuggled with value at over 2,500 pula, offenders will get up to a maximum charge of 450,000 pula.
Botswana introduced a ban on the importation of certain fruits and vegetables by the country’s trade ministry in a move aimed to stimulate local production to self-sufficiency levels. Since then, there have been periods of severe shortages in retailers of certain products, especially those that are not in season.
The government has stood its ground on the ban despite calls from some retail sectors for it to consider lifting the ban on those products that are not produced in abundance locally. Meanwhile, the government has since 2020 availed financial facilities to assist local farmers to improve their farming methods and increase local production toward self-sufficiency.
With a population of about 2.3 million people, Botswana still imports majority of food including fresh produce.
Most of the products were imported from neighboring South Africa. The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 posed a serious threat to the country’s food security as suspension of travel and border delays resulted in the country running short of many items, including fruits and vegetables. This prompted the government to come up with ways to encourage local production.
However, some individuals, especially those who buy for resale in bulk have been accused of smuggling products that are in shortage across the border from South Africa, thus defeating the government’s efforts toward the self-sufficiency goal. Enditem